An unusual tomb
Taversöe Tuick is a very unusual example of a stalled Neolithic cairn, dating from around 5,000 years ago. These burial monuments are characterised by a rectangular chamber subdivided by pairs of upright slabs into individual stalls, or compartments.
Taversöe Tuick is one of at least 15 Neolithic tombs on the small island of Rousay, of which four are in Historic Scotland’s care. Each seems to have served as a cemetery for a small farming community, and remained in use over hundreds of years.
Three tombs in one
Taversöe Tuick is actually three tombs in one. The main cairn has two burial chambers, one set above the other (an arrangement seen only at one other Orkney tomb – Huntersquoy, on Eday).
Excavation has shown that the upper chamber was no afterthought but part of the original design. In addition, a third, miniature tomb lies outside the entrance to the lower chamber. The two superimposed chambers were accessed and used independently.
The lower chamber was entered from the south and divided into four compartments, all fitted with stone shelves. Bones from at least three individuals were found, including a crouched skeleton on one of the shelves.
Three heaps of cremated bone lay in the blocked entrance passage.
The upper chamber, reached from the north, contained the cremated bones of at least one adult and one child. The miniature tomb, its pear-shaped chamber divided by four upright slabs, produced three well-preserved pottery vessels. However, if there were burials no remains survived.
Region – Orkney
On the island of Rousay 0.5m West of pier. Reached using Orkney Ferries Ltd from Tingwall Terminal, telephone 01856 751 360.
Grid reference - HY 426 276.
Tel: 01856 841815 (Skara Brae)